Syrian Arab Republic: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria Situation Report No. 3 - As of 30 December 2019
• From 1 to 29 December, some 284,000 people fled from their homes, mainly from southern Idleb governorate, moving further north away from the hostilities. Ma’arrat An Nu’man and its countryside are reportedly almost empty, more and more people from Saraqab and its eastern countryside are fleeing in anticipation of hostilities extending to their area.
• A volatile security situation along the access routes north and the shortage of fuel in Idleb area are limiting the movement of civilians fleeing the hostilities. Most of the recently displaced people are going to urban centres such as Idleb city and Ariha, and to the IDP camps in northwestern Idleb. Others are reportedly moving to areas such as Afrin and A’zaz in northern Aleppo governorate seeking safety and access to services.
• Displacement during winter is further exacerbating the vulnerability of those affected. Many who fled are in urgent need of humanitarian support, particularly shelter, food, health, non-food and winterization assistance.
Hostilities in Idleb continue to have devastating consequences for the three million people living in this area, of whom 76 percent are women and children. From May to August 2019, an estimated 400,000 were displaced from northern Hama, southern Idleb and western Aleppo governorates while more than 1000 people were reportedly killed due to hostilities according to OHCHR.
Since 16 December, aerial bombardment intensified in southern Idleb, affecting large population centres, such as Ma’arrat An-Nu’man and Saraqab as well as towns and villages in their countryside. Ground fighting between non-state armed groups and Government of Syria (GoS) forces resumed on 19 December along the frontlines in southern Idleb governorate.
From 1 to 29 December, some 284,000 people fled their homes, mostly in southern parts of Idleb, to reach safer areas in the north. Of those recently displaced in December, 80 percent are estimated to be women and children. The newly displaced populations are predominantly moving north within Idleb governorate to urban centers such as Ariha, Saraqab and Idleb city and -to a lesser degree- to IDP camps in northwest Idleb governorate along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Thousands of newly displaced people are also moving to Afrin, A’zaz, and Al Bab areas in northern Aleppo governorate. In addition, tens of families have reportedly fled to GoS-held areas in Aleppo due to the intensification of hostilities.
Immediate humanitarian assistance including food, shelter, winterization as well as health and psychosocial support is essential to support displaced individuals. In particular, ready-to-eat rations and cooked meals are a priority for people, given that many of the newly displaced have no means to cook. Of note, residents of Ma’arrat An Nu’man area, who make up a significant proportion of the newly displaced, are predominantly an urban population who are seeking shelter in other urban areas, such as Ariha and Idleb city, rather than IDP camps. As a result, public buildings such as mosques, garages, wedding halls and schools are being used to host newly displaced families, however, the capacity to absorb people in need may surpass available places given the scale of displacement. A humanitarian response that is sensitive to the needs of this newly displaced population is necessary. For example, shelter options and accompanying WASH assistance would need to take into account the specific needs such as hygiene requirements in large temporary receiving areas.
The vulnerability of the newly displaced people as well as those previously displaced is further exacerbated by the winter weather. Heating, winter clothes and blankets are essential needs during this season, without which displaced people are more likely to resort to negative coping mechanisms. Moreover, for an urban population, coping with displacement is likely to be more complicated and challenging as they would be unused to living in a self-sustained manner